Monday, October 4, 2010

Nightstand Watch: What Unpro's Reading

*blows virtual dust off blog*

*slams head against desk for subjecting readers to such a bad joke*

In short, y'all, I'm sorry for the lack of posting lately.  Life has been, well, happening.  I also haven't been reading and commenting on my fave blogs as much (Sadako and Nikki, I still love you!).  Hopefully I'm well on the way to getting my groove back, and bloggy absence will be no more.

Anyway, I HAVE had a little time to read lately--in fact, I've made it a point to at least skim a few pages daily.  My library books have been piling up, to the point where I've started putting them on my floor rather than my nightstand, to avoid them toppling onto my cat.   And speaking of nightstands, one of my favorite features on Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch blog is "Nightstand Watch," where the blogger, then the commenters, share what they're currently reading.  This week, I come to you with a little Nightstand Watch of my own.  Here are four books I've read recently, and the one I'm currently reading, in no particular order:

1.  Good Enough to Eat (Stacey Ballis)
I met fellow Chicagoan Stacey Ballis on the same night I met Jen Lancaster, at a reading/signing for Stacey's book The Spinster Sisters.  I've really enjoyed all four of Ms. Ballis' previous novels: her female characters are empowered by their imperfections, extremely intelligent, and have a great sense of fun.  Plus, her love for the Windy City shines through in every word, and there's just something about authors and auteurs who get Chicago locations exactly right, as opposed to just throwing in "Sears Tower" and "Marshall Fields" (or, ahem, "Willis Tower" and "Macy's," BOO) every other sentence.

With this in mind, I really wanted to like her latest, Good Enough to Eat.  I even bought it as opposed to borrowing, because I like to support my fave writers who aren't New York Times-bestsellers (yet).  And the concept had so much potential: an overweight lawyer goes to cooking school, opens her own organic food business, loses half her body weight, and THEN loses her husband to a woman twice her new size.  I love anything to do with food (which is why I'm still watching Top Chef Just Desserts even though I HATE Seth and his whiny mommy fixation), and exploring a woman's complex relationship with it sounded even better.  And yet . . . I was disappointed.  The writing felt a little lazy, the characters were cliches (hi, sassy yet supportive gay friend!  howyadoin, wise African American soul food chef!  what's happenin', flaky Manic Pixie Dream Girl with pink hair?), and I thought the straight men (MPDG's boyfriend in particular) got away with so much shit without consequence.  While I did enjoy the narrator's voice, the food descriptions, and the cool low-fat and full-fat recipes, most of Good Enough to Eat left me hungry.  Try Ms. Ballis' first four books, particularly Inappropriate Men and The Spinster Sisters, before you pick up this one.

2.  A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love and Faith in Stages (Kristin Chenoweth)
So I used to haaaaaate Kristin Chenoweth.  To the point where when her name was mentioned, I'd go to the bathroom and fake vomiting sounds, attempt to asphyxiate myself with a pink pillow, or just yell, "ARRRGH I WANNA KICK PUPPIES."  I mean, she's just so tiny!  And adorable!  And squeaky!  And uber-Christian!

And genuinely talented and (if her book is to be believed) hardworking.


Therefore, recommending Chenoweth's autobiography is the bloggy equivalent of me eating crow.  Big, fat, juicy, feathery crow.  What can I say?  She's totally got the wrong voice for the lead female in the Promises, Promises revival, but pulls it off anyway.  She won me over on Glee by singing a seductive cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Fire" with hottie patottie Matthew Morrison while twirling around a skating rink.  Most of all, the lady seems to be a genuine Christian, in that she's actually nice to people.  The fact that she regrets her 700 Club appearance and spoke up loudly on Sean Hayes' behalf (he plays a straight dude in Promises, Promises), well, I kinda dig that a lot.  So sing on, Ms. Chenoweth.  I've put out my white flag, then replaced it with a pink glittery one that would make Glinda proud.

3.  Hard and Fast (Erin McCarthy)
Yup, I'm still into romance novels.  After the most stressful of days, there's nothing quite like some sexy escapism in 350 pages or less.  Just like I thought I'd never be in to romance novels, I REALLY thought I'd never be into romance novels featuring race car drivers.  I mean, I poke fun at my dad's NASCAR-viewing habit on a daily basis, and Talladega Nights on TBS never fails to crack me up ("I am a NASCAR wife, Ricky!  I do not work!").  But thanks to the ladies at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I was introduced to Erin McCarthy's series where Sundays are king, cars are life and sex is really, really hot.  Also, the good ole boys who drive find themselves attracted to women who are talented, smart and have really great dialogue.  In Hard and Fast, dyslexic driver Ty falls for grad student Imogen and Shakespearean sparks fly.  Yes, there is Shakespeare and race car driving in the same book.  And it totally works.  Who knew?

4.  The Kid (Dan Savage)
Despite idly reading his explicitly frank advice column for years, and enjoying the hell out of The Commitment, his book on relationships, I consider myself a recent Dan Savage convert.  The dude is a dirty, fetish-y god, and I would totally stalk him in Seattle if he were into vaginas.  Don't believe me?  Check out his inspirational It Gets Better project on YouTube, or subscribe to his fantastic Savage Love podcast, where he doles out wisdom on everything from boobs to bondage with the vocal acumen of Wolfman Jack.  Or read The Kid, his 1999 memoir about adopting a child with his boyfriend Terry.  I have no desire whatsoever for spawn, but I was alternately cracking up and choking up the whole time.  Dan, on the .00001% chance you're reading this, I heart you from the depths of my Catholic-girl soul, and can't wait to hear you speak at the Chicago Humanities Festival next month.  Can I have a hug?

5.  Last Night at Chateau Marmont (Lauren Weisberger)
I've always thought Lauren Weisberger got a bad rap.  Granted, she's probably laughing all the way to the bank, after her first book The Devil Wears Prada was adapted into a fairly successful and pretty funny movie, but critics seem to haaaate her.  Look, not everything can be War and Peace.  And you know what?  Her characters may come off shallow and entitled at times, but the woman worked for Anna fucking Wintour, for God's sake.  She probably STILL has scars and eating issues!  When it comes to protagonists, however, I think nutritionist Brooke of Last Night at Chateau Marmont is my favorite.  Brooke is sweet, hardworking, and believably struggling to adjust to the fact that her husband, whose musical dreams she has financially and emotionally supported for years, is now an overnight sensation.  Brooke doesn't feel entitled to anything, just respect and equal support from her rock-star spouse.  This is a fun, fast read (I'm almost at the end and I just started yesterday), probably not worth the hardcover price, but definitely worth a good ol' fashioned borrow.

Because I STILL feel guilty about not posting lately, here's a fun video for thy pains:

What are YOU reading right now?  Any recommendations/stay-the-hell-away-from-this-book(s)? On a sorta-related thought, anyone doing NaNoWriMo this year?  Anyone out there?  Leave a comment!


  1. Well, as you know, I just finished The Hunger Games trilogy, which I loved despite some weaknesses (Mockingjay was way too slow and then too much crammed in at the end). Right now I'm reading Tim Gunn's new book (he's so sassy and I love it), and I really want to read Last Night at Chateau Marmont - I want to borrow it from you or Mom when you guys are done with it!

  2. "Dick In A Box" is always well-appreciated. And Kristin Chenoweth has been blowing up lately - Like a couple of the comments on my blog have been about her lately. I have no idea why she's been in everyone's thoughts lately.

    I've been reading collections of Penny Arcade cartoons lately. It is this super nerdy web comic, mostly about video games. You can read it online here:

  3. Meg: I echo your thoughts on Mockingjay--I liked where Katniss ended up, but I wish her choices were more active, less REactive, if that makes sense. Mom is currently reading Chateau Marmont, whereas I have returned it to the library, so you can borrow it from her.

    Steve G.: I think Chenoweth's been more in the collective public eye lately because she recently spoke out in favor of Sean Hayes, her costar in Promises, Promises. There was some controversy/snark about his playing a straight male lead, and she was very vocal about saying that real-life sexuality shouldn't matter when playing a character. This piqued some people's interest, as she is also very open about being a Christian, and "Christian" and "gay-friendly" don't always mesh in the eyes of the media.

    I'll make sure to check out Penny Arcade!

  4. I've nearly finished the hunger games final book. I laughed about the books on the nightstand, I don't know how many time my cat has knocked my pile over!

  5. Currently reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I've just started, but I love the man's style. Next up is Eden's Outcasts, a biography of Louisa May Alcott and her father, Branson.

    I've decided to Nano again this year! Hopefully I'll be more successful than last year, when I hit just over 10,000 words :) If you want to buddy me on the website, I'm nikkihb.

    I disagree a little about Mockingjay. I found it more cerebral than the other two, which I really appreciated. And I especially appreciated being taken away from the whole "team Gale" vs. "team Peeta" thing, which was always a stupid distraction from the real storyline.

  6. Nikki: I will probably read Franzen's latest eventually. I loved The Corrections, but have been put off by his recent douchey behavior (and I HATE myself for judging an artist on his personality).

    Will definitely buddy you on the NaNo site! You can do it--I believe in you!

    Agreed, "team Gale vs. team Peeta" was a very silly distraction (though kinda fun at times). One of the things I really liked about the trilogy was that it was about a young woman who WASN'T defined by her relationships with boys.

  7. Yay, Cheno's book! I thought it was a great read, although I wish it was longer and went into greater detail in places. Always enjoy hearing what other people are reading - The Kid sounds really good.